Genre-Bending Tools for Audio/Visual Expression

<p>Experimental tools on the frontier of music and the visual arts.</p>

Julia Kaganskiy

There has long existed a symbiotic relationship between music and the visual arts. The two disciplines have influenced and informed one another for centuries, but in recent years technology has been blurring the lines between them as artists from both sides push the boundaries of their respective mediums closer towards the area of overlap. Visual artists and composers alike are striving to create compositions based on and generated by human interaction, constructing ever-evolving musical scores and visualizations that are influenced by their environment. Below is a list of projects that we’ve compiled in just the past week, and although it provides only a brief snapshot of the innovative activity going on at this intersection, it hints at the immense creativity happening in this space.

Radius Music by Dave Young

Dave Young, aka Henderson, combines cartography and graphically generated musical scores in his Radius Music piece. The Radius Music machine is placed in the center of a room and rotates, scanning the distance between itself and the nearest surface—be it a wall, a person, or a solid object. These distance values then become the “notes” in an automatically generated musical score, with each distance value being assigned a corresponding sonic frequency. A visualization of this score is projected on the floor, changing in real-time as the machine continually scans its surroundings to map its environment. As people move about the room, they alter the composition being created, making Radius Music a collaborative music instrument.

SoundyThingie by Hansi Raber

SoundyThingie is an iPad application built using openFrameworks that generates music based off of simple drawings and gesture. Each line drawn on the interface is translated into a sound, with multiple lines (and curves, and patterns!) forming a musical composition. The lines can be moved to alter their pitch, connected to one another, and the app comes with built in controllers that allow the user to alter the speed of the loops. The free-form nature of the app—which essentially presents you with a blank slate on which to draw your audio/visual creation on—is extremely exciting. We’re curious to see what more complex drawing would sound like, and how this app might be incorporated into a live performance.

Heart Chamber Orchestra by TERMINALBEACH

The Heart Chamber Orchestra is an interactive audiovisual performance comprised of 12 classical musicians and the artist duo TERMINALBEACH, a collaboration between PURE and Erich Berger. The musicians are hooked up to electrocardiogram sensors that measure and track their heartbeats. This information is then used to generate a musical score in real-time, which the musicians read and perform off of laptops placed before them, and a data visualization the is projected behind them. Throughout the performance, the musicians’ fluctuating heartbeats inform the composition, and the composition in turn influences the speed of their hearts, creating a continuous feedback loop that becomes a kind of living organism in its own right.